Micheál Martin says Bertie Ahern return to FF not a ‘prospect’

Any application by former taoiseach to rejoin FF deemed threat to ‘fresh party’ identity

 Micheál Martin: “Bertie resigned four or five years ago after the Mahon tribunal. He’s retired, effectively, from politics. I don’t see him coming back into the party, I don’t think that’s a prospect.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Micheál Martin: “Bertie resigned four or five years ago after the Mahon tribunal. He’s retired, effectively, from politics. I don’t see him coming back into the party, I don’t think that’s a prospect.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has rebuffed a move to bring Bertie Ahern back into the party.

“Bertie resigned four or five years ago after the Mahon tribunal. He’s retired, effectively, from politics. I don’t see him coming back into the party, I don’t think that’s a prospect,” Mr Martin said.

The party’s Dublin Central constituency organisation this week passed a motion inviting Mr Ahern to return, and the former taoiseach said on Wednesday he would give it consideration.

Any application by Mr Ahern could be discussed by the party’s executive council but Mr Martin’s statement is seen as an attempt to discourage him from making one.

It is unclear if Mr Ahern will now remain outside the party or attempt to rejoin at a later date. He resigned in 2012 after Mr Martin moved to expel him on foot of the report of the Mahon tribunal.

Mr Ahern has rejected the findings of the tribunal and said in 2012 that his resignation from Fianna Fáil should not be seen as an admission of wrongdoing.

At the time, he also said a motion to expel him from the party had “created debate and discussion and I don’t want this to become divisive”.

A senior Fianna Fáil source said it could not be ruled out that Mr Ahern may seek to rejoin, but added: “His comments around his resignation, [that] splitting or dividing the party should be avoided, could be applied today.”

Central allegation

The tribunal found Mr Ahern failed to truthfully account for a number of financial transactions, but it did not make a finding of corruption against him.

Following the tribunal findings, Mr Martin said that while the “central allegation” against Mr Ahern was “not sustained, the evidence confirmed by the tribunal and its comments relating to him are extremely serious”.

He yesterday said his position had not changed since then.

“People are looking at Fianna Fáil and saying it’s a changed party, it’s a fresh party. It ‘gets it’ now. One of the most important parts of our recovery was that we ‘got’ how people felt about us back in 2011,” Mr Martin added.

“I recall when we spoke to people who had tracked how the Conservatives in Britain took about 10 years to ‘get it’.

“I was determined that wouldn’t happen with Fianna Fáil. We had to really understand how people felt about us and that involved everything, from tribunals to the economy and so on.

“I think by getting it early and understanding where people were, we had a platform then to grow the party.”

A motion inviting Mr Ahern to rejoin was supported unanimously at a meeting of the Dublin Central Comhairle Dáil Ceantair in the Skylon Hotel in Drumcondra. Mr Ahern said later he was unaware such a motion was going to be tabled.